Progress is key for Supergirl. She’s come pretty far for someone who originated as an under-credited sidekick, but there’s always more to be done. While we still need to see even more progress, we can’t forget where Kara Zor-El started. We saw her first as a sidekick doing little, on her own or with Superman, and now we see her as a definite contribution to the DC Universe. Who knows where we will see her in the future?

Supergirl’s Origins

Kara’s humble origins are a testament to how underappreciated and underutilized she used to be. She first appeared in ACTION COMICS #252, having come from Argo, a then vaguely described Kryptonian city. It survived the death of the planet, floating through space until it faced further destruction.

Kara was sent to Earth to be with her cousin, Superman. Upon her arrival, Superman couldn’t take her in. So, he sent her to an orphanage and disguised her in a brown, pig-tailed wig under the name Linda Lee.

Supergirl
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

She spent her days at the orphanage using her powers to solve simple problems. One example is when she used her heat vision to mend a crack in the sidewalk to prevent girls with roller skates from tripping and falling. Similarly, she would use her super-breath to clean up her room. She continuously used her abilities for mundane problems that any human could solve without them. Supergirl has all of the Superman’s powers, yet we were shown very little of her as a superhero, let alone a sidekick.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes

Supergirl, introduced in 1959, had so much potential to become a female icon. Her powers made her almost unbeatable, yet we didn’t see her using them in the same way that we saw Superman using his abilities. While Superman was off saving the world, Kara had to stay put and only do good on a much smaller scale.

It wasn’t a great start, to say the least. Supergirl not only could’ve shown that women can be powerful, but also that they can be equal to men. If a hero as great as Superman could have a strong feminine counterpart, why couldn’t any other woman be as powerful as a man?

Getting There

SUPERGIRL vol. 5, particularly the story arc SUPERGIRL: WAY OF THE WORLD, shows Kara coming closer to her full potential. Here, she starts to do things on her own. This is just one instance that proves how it took so long for her to start doing more to help people. This, additionally, shows how Supergirl has moved away from solely being a sidekick to Superman. In previous, yet still recent, stories she’s still been reliant on other superheroes. In this arc, we see her taking care of things on her own.

A member of Young Justice, Empress, comes to Supergirl begging for help. Supergirl and Empress had worked together in the past, so Kara had no reason to find her suspicious. However, Empress’ parents had been kidnapped by Aftermath, the latter blackmailing her into putting Supergirl under a mind control spell. Aftermath, a victim of Superman’s fight with Doomsday, was determined to unmask superheroes in order to show them as horrible people, which is what he planned to do to Supergirl.

Empress brings Kara to Aftermath, convinced that he will release her parents in return. Aftermath, instead, uses the mind control spell cast on Supergirl to command her to kill Empress. Just before attacking, Supergirl still has enough control over her own mind to tell Empress to use a magical shield to protect herself.

Kara’s fortitude saves Empress from certain death. Without Supergirl’s mental strength, not only would Empress have been killed, but who knows which other superheroes Supergirl could’ve harmed. To see Supergirl with enough strength to withstand mind control, even partially, shows that she is moving in a newer, and better, direction.

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Achieving Status

Supergirl
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Supergirl has come so far since then. Recently we’ve seen her do amazing things for the world in her own series. Specifically, in SUPERGIRL vol. 7 we see her solving much bigger problems. Since her humble beginnings, Supergirl has moved far beyond her status as barely-a-sidekick.

In SUPERGIRL vol. 7, Kara travels to the Fortress of Solitude, where she encounters Cyborg Superman. He claims to have her father Zor-El’s consciousness. Once Kara determines this to be the truth, Cyborg Superman presents as a problem for her. After all, it must take an immense amount of emotional strength to fight one’s, originally presumed-dead, father. He brings a recreated Argo City to Earth. Zor-El intends to revitalize it and its inhabitants with the life force of human beings, killing them in the process.

Supergirl has no choice but to fight him in order to save countless people from his sinister plan. She proves herself physically strong enough to defeat Zor-El. Then, she shows her great mental strength in recognizing that this isn’t the way to bring back her people. She chooses right over wrong and sacrifices her chance to have her family back in doing so.

This demonstrates just how much Kara has grown as a character since her introduction to the DC Universe in 1959. When we first met her, she didn’t really deal with any serious threats. Since then, Kara continues to prove herself more than capable of saving the world. Through this, she’s come much closer to becoming the hero that she should’ve been, and we can only expect her to move even further towards the icon we need her to be.

SUPERGIRL: BEING SUPER #3 Preview

Moving Forward

We’ve seen many great things from Supergirl. She became more than her simple origins make her out to be, but we still require a bit more from her. Even considering her status as Superman’s sidekick, she needs to her receive more credit for what she’s been doing.

So much of what Kara has accomplished we’ve seen credited to “Superman’s cousin,” rather than being appreciated as her own hero. Since she started as a sidekick, some of her success would naturally be attributed to the Man of Steel. However, people tend to think of her accomplishments as so close to Superman’s, that it presents a legitimate problem.

Supergirl
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

We inherently see Supergirl on a different level than Superman due to the use of “girl” in her title. If we ever want to witness Kara reach her full potential, we need to see her credited properly. To do this, we need to recognize her accomplishments as equal to those of Superman. When we see her get the credit she deserves, then she will have become everything we could ever hope for.

Supergirl, Finding Her Place

Supergirl has come far from her beginnings, and she’s going even farther. She became a household name, and while still largely known as Superman’s younger cousin, she still continues to gain mainstream recognition. While having started as a completely underrated and underutilized sidekick, we’ve seen her become capable of doing great things on her own. She started out with using her superpowers to clean her room. Now she’s using them to save countless lives in epic struggles. Through her growth, she’s making a real difference in the DC Universe.

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Unfortunately, that’s not to say that more can’t be done with her. Until we see her recognized as a hero in her own right, rather than just a Superman supporting character, she won’t reach her full potential. Once we see her get proper credit, Kara will be an even greater icon to women everywhere. The world is starting to appreciate Supergirl as a sidekick. We still have some time before we can completely respect her as a superhero.

2 Comments

  1. KET

    March 27, 2018 at 6:19 am

    Your article begins with a totally flawed premise: Supergirl was NEVER a ‘sidekick’. She’s a Superman spin-off character….not the same thing. From there, the rest if this is condescending and regurgitated comics-oriented effluence, which doesn’t provide any insight into the iconic stature Supergirl ALREADY HAS outside of your insular male gaze. The character’s world-wide impact has never been limited to mere comics appearances.

    Reply

  2. Rex the Wonder Dog

    March 26, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Cancelling the Supergirl comic book and just folding her into the Superman comic books is a step backwards.

    Reply

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